What is Classification and Other uses of the term classification


A classification is an ordering or organization of things into a series of categories or classes . Ideas , objects or any type of referent can be classified . In fact, classifying is defined in the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy as “arranging something by class”, that is, organizing and dividing a set of things according to criteria chosen beforehand.

The word classification comes from the Latin classis (“class”) and facere (“to do”), so it can be understood as “to make classes”, that is, establishing different classes of objects or referents is establishing a classification.

This procedure -that of classifying- is extremely important within the thought schemes of the human being . In fact, a good part of learning consists of learning to classify information , that is, to establish the pertinent categories of each thing and later establish relationships between them.

All classification, therefore, consists of a singularization: a general set of objects is taken and divided into smaller and more specific groups, according to the presence of some chosen characteristic.

Ways to establish classifications

There are, however, many ways to establish classifications. We can do it, for example, attending to:

  • The nature of things: classify objects according to the material they are made of, or according to their degree of purity, or according to the complexity of their constituent elements.
  • Its functions: classify objects according to their relationship with another group, or according to their appearance, etc.

Thus, a set of furniture can be classified according to whether they are wood, plastic and metal, or according to the number of legs they have, or the colors of their surface.

Among all these possibilities, however, it is worth highlighting the hierarchical classification , that is, the one that organizes the objects based on the importance they have within a simple logical model: from the most general to the most specific. This type of classification was used in the first information organization systems, such as library catalogs .

Classification is a mental process that we carry out continuously and in very different areas of knowledge and thought.

For example, in the field of biology , the classification of all known life forms is undertaken, that is, taxonomy , distinguishing between the kingdoms of life and their numerous subclassifications. To do this, note is taken of the differences and similarities in their physical and body structure that the species of living beings present among themselves.

Chemistry does something similar by organizing the known chemical elements into the different groups that make up the periodic table of elements, taking into account their energetic properties and their behavior with respect to other chemical elements. This method of organizing the 118 elements known to date is known as periodic classification.

Even words are classified, according to their function within the sentence, in what we know as grammatical categories. But every classification, as we have seen, necessarily establishes classes or categories, that is, a typology (of types ).

Thus, when we are asked to classify a set of referents, we always need a criterion to organize them, that is, a criterion to establish the different groups that there will be.

The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) plays with this in his story “The analytical language of John Wilkins” from 1952, in which he proposes a curious classification of existing animals, according to a supposed Chinese encyclopedia, and that he organizes them into crazy classes such as “belonging to the emperor”, “embalmed”, “fabulous”, “that shake like crazy” or “that from a distance look like flies”, among others.

All this to be able to affirm that  (…) clearly there is no classification of the universe that is not arbitrary and conjectural. The reason is very simple: we don’t know what the universe is.”

Other uses of the term classification

Some much more specific uses of the term classification are as follows:

  • In the world of sports , it is used to refer to the organization of players or player teams , according to the number of points or games won they have, within a championship. Thus, it is common to speak of a team or player “classifying” when they are among the top positions in a tournament, that is, when they entered the group of victors.
  • When governments and spy agencies give a document “classified” status, they mean that its reading is not public and is reserved for those with the necessary authority or permission. Thus, classified documents are part of the secret of nations , until they are “declassified”, that is, they are made public, when it is considered that they no longer represent a danger to national interests.
  • In the world of information science, it is called “classifying” or “cataloging” to enter new books or documents into a system of organization and information retrieval , through dimensions and other data that are part of a code. This allows the applicant to search for a specific book among hundreds or thousands of copies available in a library’s collections or bookstore’s warehouses.

The idea of ​​classification as the basis of human science

It is important to point out that the classification is essential with regard to the sciences and academic fields in which phenomena of various kinds are studied. For example, in the natural sciences , classification is what has made it possible to recognize the thousands of species of flora and fauna existing on the planet .

Today, they are classified into families, genera, subgenres, groups and also in relation to their danger status, for example if they are on the verge of extinction or if they are not in danger of disappearing.

This is what allows ordering knowledge and working with it in a much more organized way. Science also uses the classification in everything that regards the tests that can be done on a certain subject, for example human skin reactions to a new product or even in the social sciences social groups are also classified, behaviors humans etc

In the study and in the school environment

Although classification is an activity that is usually related to science, it is also present in the school world. The classification of the material, of the tasks, prioritizing certain activities before others are all present aspects when studying. From the fact that the subjects or subjects are classified in relation to the phenomena they study or the material on which they work, it is clear that classification is also an important part of the school and university world.

The abundance of knowledge has led human beings to organize information

If we take into account that human beings have been producing knowledge and passing it on from generation to generation, it is understandable that at some point it has had to be organized and classified in order to order it and make better use of it. This is one of the roles, for example, of libraries and spaces where a large part of knowledge and human knowledge is stored.

We cannot fail to mention the valuable work of those intellectuals who in the 18th century summarized human knowledge in the famous Encyclopedia . The concept of an encyclopedia, which includes different types of knowledge classified into different groups, arose at that time and is maintained to this day with many categories and subcategories that provide important help in accessing the cultural legacy of the human being.

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